Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Congressman Michael McCaul (TX-10) have introduced HR 5964, the "Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2012." HR 5964 will facilitate crucial updates at U.S. land border ports of entry by giving U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the authority to enter into public-private partnerships with either local governments or private sector entities to fund the improvement of services and facilities at land-border ports of entry, with the goal of speeding up the flow of traffic at these ports. As federal resources continue to be constrained by difficult financial times, entering into these public-private partnerships will allow CBP to seek alternate sources of funding to ensure its essential needs are met.
"Every day, over a billion dollars in commerce flows across the U.S.-Mexico border, making Mexico one of our most important trade partners and a crucial partner in supporting U.S. economy and jobs," said Congressman Cuellar, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee. "Because of the crucial role CBP plays in supporting the efficient and effective flow of goods between our two countries, we must leverage every available resource to make sure that CBP has the tools it needs to do its job well, keep lines short and move goods and people across the border efficiently. I look forward to working with my colleagues, Senator Hutchison, Senator Cornyn and Congressman McCaul to respond to the needs of local stakeholders in both the public and private sectors and speed up the flow of traffic at our ports of entry."
"Allowing the private sector to have a stake in the security at our ports of entry will help speed the free flow of commerce," said Congressman McCaul, Chairman of the Homeland Security Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee. "The same ports of entry that serve as a pipeline for economic growth are inundated by illegal drug shipments, and the private sector and our economy are the ones that suffer. A similar approach involving industry has proven successful at the Port of Houston. This is good, innovative government."
The goal of the legislation is to provide alternatives to CBP so the restricted availability of federal funding for CBP operations does not prevent CBP from having the ability to carry out its duties efficiently and effectively. By giving CBP the authority to enter into these public-private partnerships, HR 5964 will help CBP leverage its limited resources and acquire additional tools and financing to speed up the flow of traffic at border ports of entry. In addition to funding additional staffing at ports of entry, these public-private partnerships will also support the construction and maintenance of facilities and infrastructure in order to increase CBP operational abilities.
"Congressmen Cuellar and McCaul understand that cross-border trade can bring positive economic contributions to our communities, but that we must address some critical challenges in manpower, infrastructure, technology and security in order to realize trade's full potential and strengthen the U.S.-Mexico and U.S-Canada relationships" said BTA Chairman and Starr-Camargo Bridge Co. President Sam Vale. "Unless we establish new and innovative ways of financing our borders' needed manpower and infrastructure, industry and border communities will continue to be frustrated by funding challenges and political wrangling. We must look at how we can draw upon the creativity and knowhow of the private sector in order to meet these very real challenges that are resulting in long lines of legitimate and trade and travelers waiting to enter U.S. commerce and that create a consistent drag on our economy."
This bill is the U.S. House of Representatives companion bill to a similar bill introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) also titled the "Cross Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2012."